Si vous êtes comme moi, dès le changement de garde-robe en mode hiver, les envies de soleil vous assaillent. Chéri, on se fait un long weekend au soleil? OK mais pas loin et pas trop cher…me voilà partie faire des comparatifs!! [article en anglais]

I went twice to Lanzarote, Canarias in November and had a very relaxing experience, enjoyed the surf beaches and came back to the office ostensibly tanned. On the 1st January, we were having a coffee in short sleeves on a rooftop in the middle of the Marrakech Medina…any other candidates?

The magic of airline competition on fares and the off-peak accommodation prices make short sunny breaks possible, while staying in Europe, or close at least.

1. Where’s the sun?

If those weather averages can be trusted, the Canary Islands andMarrakesh are the top sunny, dry and warm combinations; and Madeira is coming up as a valid contender on that round.

  Crete, Greece Sicily, Italy Marrakech, Morocco Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain Madeira, Portugal Malta
Temperature (Celsius)          
November 20 20 23 24 22 21
December 17 17 20 22 20 17
January 15 15 19 21 19 16
February 15 15 21 21 19 16
March 17 17 24 23 20 18
Rainfall (in mm)            
November 69.3 122.3 24.1 14.3 95.9 94.8
December 89 141 24 27.8 134.3 114.1
January 77.5 68.8 24.2 15.5 91.6 93
February 64 50.6 29.4 16.3 69.7 62.5
March 62.2 59 25.2 14.1 52.4 43.1
2. …anywhere cheap and easy to get to?

For that one, I took a random long weekend end of November: departure Friday 21st November in the afternoon, return on Tuesday the 25th in the afternoon too. I arbitrarily removed Luton from the range of possible airports – just because.  Prices are per person, from a simple Skyscanner search. When the inbound and outbound times where different, I took an average.

All 6 places came back with options under £150 which overall is not too bad. Sicily is the quickest trip, and with 3 airports, it has the most cheap & convenient options. Crete is also pretty cheap, however it’s worth noting that there are no galore options of flights: twice a week, take it or leave it!

The black horse seems to be Madeira again, we had decent weather in step #1, and cheap and relatively easy to get there… I like the sound of it.

  Crete, Greece Sicily, Italy Marrakech, Morocco Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain Madeira, Portugal Malta
price of a long weekend direct flight* £69, Gatwick to Heraklion with Easyjet £69, Stansted and Gatwick to Palermo with a combination of Ryanair and Easyjet £140, Stansted and Gatwick to Marrakech with Easyjet £110, with Monarch and Thomas Cook £80, from Gatwick to Madeira with Monarch and Norwegian £140 with a mix of BA and / or Ryanair
flight time 4h10 3h 3h40 4h20 3h40 3h15
  nb: only 2 direct flights a week (Tuesday and Saturdays with Easyjet) nb: 3 airports in Sicily   nb: lots of flights options    
3.  And the winner is….
  1. Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain – the surf winter break

It’s a proper winter destination. A little bit further away than the rest, but let’s be honest, once you have made it to the airport, whether you spend 3 or 4h in that plane doesn’t change the overall journey much. It’s got good surf, nice food and wine…it’s funny how I fell in love so much of that rock and dust island.

Downside: please avoid tourist traps unless your holiday dream is merely to sit on a beach drinking cheap beer. There is so much more to it.

Alternatives: Lanzarote, Canary Island, Spain, but be warned, the entertainment offer is minimal

  1. Marrakech, Morocco – the pamper weekend

Marrakech as well is a real winter-time destination, with a luxe spin to it. Go for a  riad stay in the heart of the medina, many offer spa and massage treatments, several 5 stars hotels like Mamouna are full all year round and the night life is also super trendy.

Alternatives: Djerba, Tunisia. Flights are a lot more expensive & uneasy but that may change soon.

  1. Madeira, Portugal – the nature time off

I was already super curious after seeing the fabulous landscape pictures posted by my friends who did the Madeira Ultra Trail. But the more I read about it, the more I want to discover that region, plus, they have one of the biggest New Year Eve fireworks in the world! It’s a bit wet than the first #2, so I probably would target late autumn or early spring.

Alternatives: Faro, South Portugal, mostly for the surfing

  1. Sicily, Italy – the foodies’ weekend

I have repeated enough how much I love Sicily on this column. In all honesty, it’s a perfect shoulder-season place, it’s possible to hop there for just a 2 or 3 days weekends, it’s easily accessible, and really the weather won’t matter this much, you’ll be inside eating cannoli and arrancini, and pasta di mandorla, and parmegiana, and crema di pistacchio…

Alternatives: Sardinia, Italy, but has a lot fewer convenient flights options

  1. Malta – the youngsters get-away

Malta a small picturesque island, easy to go around, ideal for a cultural 3/4 days weekend; lots of cheap accommodation options too and making it a young people’s favourite.

Alternatives: Cyprus, decent flights options and relatively mild weather, it could be interesting to see the touristy spots such as Limassol without the crowds

  1. Crete, Greece

All bloggers reporting their trips have enjoyed the Island off-peak: going hiking in the countryside free from crowds, and the cultural treasures and varied landscapes. Lots of family-friendly options too…

Alternative: I checked on Mykonos, Greece, but the winter flights are few and far between…wait until April.